Amazon’s steady push with Amazon Go-powered instant checkout stores across the US and UK has been well documented. Lesser known is that it has also been taking steps to expand the technology in India, another very key market for the business.
TechCrunch has learned that Amazon has quietly recruited the founder of a cashierless store startup from southern India and hired at least 100 people to support the effort, and is still hiring more to further expand the team.
Recruiters include support and software engineers, embedded systems specialists, computer vision scientists and project managers, all of whom now have LinkedIn profiles stating they are working on Amazon Go in the country.Current Amazon Recruitment Point the company to bring more onboarding efforts.
Amazon has set up Just Walk Out technical operations in cities such as Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai to work extensively across Amazon Go stores. The Seattle-based company has made a seemingly quiet acquisition by Nayasale Retail, the parent company of a startup called Watasale, which is fueling those businesses. Watasale is/was a start-up based in Cochin, Kerala that claims to be India’s first Amazon Go style cashierless store, launched in the southern Indian state in January 2018.
Watasale employees have joined Amazon, but it’s unclear whether Amazon “acquired” or “acquired” the business. Watasale’s website is still workingalthough it looks like many of the links (such as its app on Google Play, and explanations of how its technology actually works) are no longer valid.
The site notes that it has built a number of different technologies around the idea of automated checkout. It noted that the startup has developed technology to operate “micro-stores”: vending machines that work using smartphones and QR codes that can be placed in any store.
It’s also working on a larger store-wide implementation, using cameras and computer vision and “sensor fusion” to understand shopper behavior, as well as big data analytics and deep learning to gain insights into consumer behavior, according to the site, with ideas revolving around buying patterns Build a more complete picture, which would be more complex (if not impossible) to determine from a more traditional shopping environment.
In both cases, Watasale’s technology enables shoppers to select items and get charged and paid automatically through a prepaid wallet—all handled by Watasale, eliminating the need for a cashier or a physical checkout process.
Watasale also appears to be working on further technologies, including robot-driven delivery services. It writes on its website that automated delivery is a “best-in-class fully autonomous online delivery concept” in which orders from Watasale stores are sent by robots to a nearby requested location.
“We used a combination of touch sensors, artificial intelligence and computer vision — almost the same technology as in self-driving cars,” Richu Jose, who was Watasale’s chief operating officer at the time, said in an Indian publication StartupTalkyThe startup actually started working on its technology in 2015, before Amazon Go launched, but it seems to credit the e-commerce giant for essentially confirming their hunch that the space is worth pursuing.
“We’ve been working on this technology since early 2015,” Subhash Sasidharakurup, formerly Watasale’s CEO and CTO, said in the same interview. “After Amazon’s announcement, they will [launch] Amazon Go, similar to our technology, got us back in the right direction. “
By January 2020, Jose, Sasidharakurup and another Watasale director, Subhash Shanoop Sivadas, had all joined Amazon, according to their LinkedIn profiles. Two other directors of the startup, Dileep Elipe Jacob and Vinci George Mathews, resigned from the board in December 2021, according to documents filed with India’s regulator, the Registrar of Companies.
The directors of Amazon and Watasale did not respond to requests for comment on what Amazon bought here, but on January 31, 2022, Nayasale Retail asked the Registrar of Companies to remove its name from official records under section 248(2) The documents show that the 2013 Companies Act. The same documents appear to indicate that the company itself is self-reliant.
A source told TechCrunch that employees at the startup will have the option to join Amazon and work with the team building the technology behind Amazon Go stores. But it’s unclear if this is for stores in existing Go markets such as the US and the UK or for developing the technology for India. If it’s the latter, it’s also unclear what the timing of the release might be.
Introduced in beta In 2016, Amazon Go first launched in Seattle. The company has since expanded the partially automated stores to other parts of the US, including Chicago, San Francisco and New York, as well as London. In 2020, it also start selling Promote its cashierless store technology to other retailers.
While Amazon has pulled back some brick-and-mortar retail strategies, it appears to be doubling down on stores built around its more cutting-edge cashier-less technology. Currently, there are 28 Go locations in the U.S. alone, including two Starbucks Pickup and Amazon Go roll out last November.
Opening a brick-and-mortar store is a logical extension of Amazon’s expansion in India. Deployed over $6.5 billion Expand its presence in the country.
While e-commerce is certainly on the rise in this tech-savvy, mobile-friendly country, brick-and-mortar retail is still a huge business. IBEF cites data from Payoneer, estimate In 2020, e-commerce accounted for 4% of food and non-food retail, a figure that will rise to 8% by 2025.
This leaves a lot for brick-and-mortar commerce.To this end, Amazon has Actively exploring partnerships with neighborhood stores Last few years. However, it’s a long-term bet for the company.A report last month by investment firm Sanford C. Bernstein said Amazon’s growth spending in India puts the outlook for its local unit on the table Make profits “elusive”.
Amazon faces stiff competition from Walmart-owned Flipkart and Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Retail, which has been expanding recently, Outsmarting a US company’s takeover attempt Future Retail, the second largest retail chain in India.
However, Amazon is working to increase its presence in the country, with its e-commerce spending expected to double to more than $130 billion by 2025, according to Bernstein’s estimates.
In addition to partnerships with neighborhood stores, Amazon has also acquired stakes in brick-and-mortar retail chains in the country in recent years.
In 2018, Amazon and private equity firm Samara Capital get More, a grocery retail chain owned by Aditya Birla Group, has entered offline retail in China.The investment arm of U.S. companies also grew in 2017 bought a 5% stake (PDF) At the department store chain Shoppers Stop. Still, it’s unclear whether either of those moves will help Amazon tap into consumers, where most of their spending comes from brick-and-mortar stores.
Ankur Bisen, senior partner and head of retail, consumer goods, food and services at consulting firm Technopak, told TechCrunch that the evolution of the Indian ecosystem in terms of society, politics, policy and policy determines many of the decisions Amazon makes.
His estimate is better than the IBEF’s: as much as 85 percent of the country’s retail trade is still traditional, he said. So far, nothing has affected the sustainability of local community stores in the country, he added.